Loscon 45 Incident: What Happened, and the Committee’s Update

“New Masters of Science Fiction” panel at Loscon 45 with Mel Gilden, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Gregory Benford, and Brad Lyau. Photo by Kenn Bates.

Over Thanksgiving weekend at Loscon 45, code of conduct violations were alleged against Gregory Benford for a couple of statements he made on the “New Masters of Science Fiction” panel. Afterwards, a Loscon co-chair took the unprecedented step of removing Benford from the convention. However, this action bypassed Loscon’s incident process. The board of directors of LASFS, which owns Loscon, got involved. The issue was returned to the process so con Ops could gather information. Loscon later made an announcement that “the actions desired by the aggrieved parties have been either met or exceeded.” However, at the time Ops met with the party who reported the incident she was still under the impression that Benford had been removed, which was not the ultimate outcome. On November 28, the club posted as its final resolution a statement written by Benford himself which says the co-chair apologized and he accepted the apology.

What happened at the panel: On Saturday morning the “New Masters of Science Fiction” panelists — Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Mel Gilden, Brad Lyau, and Benford — were discussing the question: “We know the old SF masters — Heinlein, Asimov, Vogt, de Camp, McCaffrey, LeGuin — who are new masters?”

Alvaro Zinos-Amaro and Gregory Benford. Photo by Kenn Bates.

According to Kenn Bates, who was present, Benford said N.K. Jemisin should get her science right.  “He did qualify his comment by saying that he liked hard SF and he was sure that his opinion was biased by that. He also said that PSI powers to control the earth and earthquakes had already been done in the fifties.”

Benford later told readers of David Weber’s Facebook page specifically, “I said, not to anyone in the room, ‘If you write sf honey, gotta get the science right.’”

Isabel Schechter says, “In addition to the ‘honey’ comment, Greg also made another comment-when one of the panelists recommended a Latino author, Greg asked him to spell the name, and then asked again several times before giving up and saying that some or those ‘names have too many vowels.’ He made this comment several times.”

Schechter, who has been in fandom over 20 years and co-chaired the successful San Juan in 2017 NASFiC bid, asked to be called on and made several comments:

I said that we were supposed to be talking about new masters but instead were talking about old ones. I remember saying “old white men” at some point in that description of the old masters, but not about the panelists (two of whom are not White). I did say that there were not any women on the panel (there was one assigned, but she didn’t show up-which I didn’t know). My comment about the female authors was in reference to the contrast between the men being discussed.

I did tell Greg that his use of the word “honey” was “offensive.” He tried to interrupt me and I told him I was still speaking. Shortly thereafter, he declared, “This panel is over!” and left the room. The panel went on without him, with panelists answering several questions after that.

The process: Isabel Schechter says she contacted the committee about events at the panel, beginning with Program organizer Justine Reynolds. Other conversations followed with Loscon co-chairs Christian McGuire and Crys Pretzman, then head of con Ops Lee Almodovar, and Robbie Bourget.

After the panel, several people were talking to me about the panel and Greg’s behavior, and Justine Reynolds, the Program Chair happened to be just outside the room as we walked out. I told her what happened, as did the other people. She apologized and said she would look into it, or something along those lines. I then went about my business. At some point, maybe an hour later, I was told that Greg had been asked to not be on any more programming. I said thanks and thought that was the end of it.

Then maybe an hour later, someone (I don’t know who, but they looked like staff) told me the conchairs wanted to talk to me, and walked me over to them, where they apologized for Greg’s behavior. They said they didn’t want me to think that the convention found his behavior acceptable and that they would not allow that kind of thing there. I thanked them, and again thought that was the end of it.

What happened next is that Christian McGuire, accompanied by someone from the hotel, located Benford at his 1 p.m. signing in the dealer’s room. According to Brandy Grote, “My husband witnessed him being escorted away by Hotel Security during his autograph session.”

Ginjer Buchanan, who read about this on David Weber’s Facebook page, commented, “Short of someone physically assaulting someone else in public, I can’t think of any reason for tracking down a person, no matter who they are, and having them do a perp walk out of a con. This strikes me as a bridge too far…”

What’s more, this step was taken without going through Loscon’s process for handling code of conduct violations. In response to my question, LASFS’ Kristen Gorlitz explained, “We do have a process for dealing with violations, but in this case, the proper channels were bypassed in favor of haste. This was thereafter rectified and the proper channels were consulted. (This is why we have an Ops team).”

Hours after Benford was led out, the committee asked Isabel Schechter to make an official statement:

Later that evening, I was asked by someone (don’t remember who) if I could make an official statement to Ops, so I went to the Ops room and gave a statement to Lee Almodovar. While doing that, [Robbie] (an older blond woman) asked me for details because it turns out that the conchairs didn’t follow convention procedures/coordinate the process with Ops. She said the conchairs overreacted or were extreme or something, and that she preferred to talk to everyone involved to try and reach a resolution, but now that Greg had been kicked out, he might not be willing to talk. She asked me if I was satisfied with the outcome or if I wanted anything like an apology. I told her I would like an apology but didn’t think I would get one. Otherwise, I was fine with the resolution. After that, I again went on about my business.

What happened to Benford led to a retaliatory petition calling for Christian B. McGuire to be removed from the LASFS Board of Directors, signed by a number of LASFS members including Larry Niven, Harry Turtledove, Laura Frankos, and David Gerrold. The next meeting of the Board is in December.

What the public was told: Ops was still collecting information on Sunday morning when LASFS asked File 770 to post this announcement (which also went up on Facebook):

Please be aware that the Loscon committee and LASFS Board are aware of an issue which occurred yesterday during a panel and are conducting a full investigation to ensure that all parties have been heard and then making a final decision based on that investigation. We would request that if anyone believes they have information to approach Ops in the Board Room. We will have an official resolution within 24 hours.

Among the people who reacted to the Facebook request was Barbara Landsman, who had a different perspective.

I was at that panel and I was horrified. I actually stood up and told her that I did not want to hear her political agenda and that she should just stop. Gregory Benford caught my eye and I just made the cut it off sign to him and he just shrugged. He finally got so pissed off that he stormed out. I again made a comment to try to stop her from continuing on with her rant and she just wouldn’t give it up. So I left. If anyone wants my testimony I’ll be very happy to speak on this. She came into this panel with a notebook and made notes and took down names and she definitely had an agenda. She wanted to fight.

Two more fans said they’d been at the panel and had given statements to Ops, but they did not repeat them on Facebook.

On Monday morning, Kristen Gorlitz issued this update:

All parties have been spoken with either yesterday or today. The actions desired by the aggrieved parties have been either met or exceeded through the follow up actions by the Co-Chairs and Ops. We would like to remind everyone and also future Loscons of the importance of being fully aware of our Code of Conduct and how language can cause emotional and psychological harm.

The resolution: Convention committees usually keep confidential their internal deliberations about alleged code of conduct violations so, unsurprisingly, it remains unexplained why the Loscon leadership didn’t follow the process, or how LASFS decided the outcome. Nor does LASFS really show an understanding that it’s their process and they need to take ownership of the outcome, because at the end this what they distributed:

November 28, 2018

Greg Benford gave us permission to publish this statement, if you wish to update file770. Thanks!

Gregory Benford’s message to LASFS:

At the 2018 Loscon there was an incident at a panel where someone took exception to something I said in general—which that someone took to be about a third party, who was not there.  Things got heated.  I left the room, not wanting to continue.  Apparently that someone complained to the convention chairs and they over reacted. The chair has apologized to me and I accepted it gratefully. He and his co-chair were probably trying to do the right thing in these over-heated times.  We all are, I trust. I have been attending Loscon since it began, and my first LASFS meeting was in 1963. I respect these enormously.

People were upset by the way the chairs acted.  Many later came up to me to say they were disturbed over it.  They were more upset than I was.  Since then, I’ve received vastly many emails, calls, Facebook posts, the lot. It’s exhausting. Things are fine with me now.  I’m not upset.  And I hope people will keep cooler heads in the future.

I want to especially thank Craig Miller, John Hertz, Matthew Tepper, Harry Turtledove, Larry Niven, Steve Barnes, John DeChancie, Gordon van Gelder and Michelle Pincus for their help in dealing with this.

At risk of being too professorial, I recommend reading

https://quillette.com/2018/05/17/understanding-victimhood-culture-interview-bradley-campbell-jason-manning/?fbclid=IwAR0hPL1hJRW_ERe6hhokHE6QJL784V4qSojSR5zwLNLwMUcnoHzK08Lwkpg

This is probably the first time the subject of code of conduct allegations ever wrote up the determination for the con committee.

When Kristen Gorlitz answered my follow-up questions about the statement, I learned she was under the impression that Isabel Schechter and Gregory Benford had met and resolved things, which never happened. (Do any other LASFSians think that happened?) Schechter says —

They did not copy me on Greg’s statement. It would have been nice if they had, given that it concerned me.

As for me and Greg resolving things, I have no idea what they mean by that. I never spoke to Greg after the panel, or at any point during the convention, before or after the panel. He did not approach me, I did not approach him, no one put us together, and we had no interaction during the convention other than during the panel. I have no idea why Kristen would say this, and am at a loss for words to explain how confused I am by her comment.

Also, Greg’s statement, “someone took exception to something I said in general—which that someone took to be about a third party, who was not there,” is misleading at best-his comment was not “in general,” he specifically named N.K. Jemisin, I did not need to make up a third party.

After neutralizing effects of the co-chair’s startling decision to walk Benford out of his autograph session, and, so far as the statement shows, managing to keep his good will, it is probably unrealistic to expect LASFS to speak explicitly to the original complaint and say whether its code of conduct was violated by Benford’s comments about Jemisin’s sf, or the spelling of Hispanic names. However, since they are standing behind his statement, how that blank would be filled-in should be easy to guess.


Update 11/30/2018: Robbie Bourget of Loscon Ops forwarded this additional information about their role: “Ops was not involved until the day after the issues, although we did take a statement from Isobel in which she did say when specifically asked ‘what would you have wished to have happen’ she said ‘for Mr Benford to be spoken to about his use of language’ and when I asked if she wanted an apology she said it would be nice but did not expect it. Therefore, since Greg was spoken to, twice, about his language – the requests (actual) of all parties were met or exceeded, since he was excluded from panels that he was scheduled for from the point the Chairs first talked to him and from the floor from after the autograph session on Saturday until sometime Sunday when he was finally interviewed by Ops.”

196 thoughts on “Loscon 45 Incident: What Happened, and the Committee’s Update

  1. @PhilRM

    The idea that most self-proclaimed hard SF “gets the science right” is hilarious.

    I would say that Hard SF takes the science seriously, not that it gets the science right. The what-if of the story can bend the facts a little–Asimov said as much–but beyond that, it needs characters who act like real scientists and engineers. The very worst are stories that pretend to be Hard SF but get the science hilariously wrong. (E.g. any story where a spaceship falls out of orbit because the engines stopped. Or gets “trapped” in a planet’s gravitational field.)

    That said, I’ve never read anything by Jemisin that pretended to be SF at all. She writes great fantasies, but, as far as I know, doesn’t do SF. That’s what makes it hard for me to believe he was talking about her.

  2. ‘If the criterion is going to be that no one can say anything that makes any memory of a minority uncomfortable, then they’re definitely going to have to get rid of all those panels with the word “queer” in their titles and and they’ll need to sanction anyone who uses the Q word. Since I don’t think they’re going to do that. . .”
    You forget, people uncomfortable with the Q word are supposed to get with the times and get over it.

  3. @Greg H: The “hard science” in the Broken Earth series is geology, not orogeny, although I don’t think she’s ever marketed the books as hard SF.

    There are definitely two camps of “hard SF” where one is “get the science right” and the other is “internally consistent with your one or two fictional scientific premises”.

  4. @Atsiko

    I have never in my life heard someone use “honey” as a generic for a gender-neutral grouping. From my perspective as a linguist, English almost always uses a masculine noun or pronoun for mixed-gender groups or for a hypothetical individual, assuming they aren’t using a gender-neutral word.

    I’m a linguist too. (Must resist temptation to add “honey.”) 🙂

    Consider this pair of sentences: “If you want to write hard SF, you need to know your stuff. Learn some science, honey!”

    I think it’s clear that “honey” is only referring back to the non-specific “you” and not to any real individual or group of individuals. Gender is not marked.

  5. @JJ —

    I am sure that there are plenty of women living in Southern states who just grit their teeth every time it happens.

    Aaaaaaand now you are “sure” of the mental states of people you’ve never even met, and using that confidence to condemn the speech patterns of an entire culture. Wow.

    Please, just stop while we’re at a relatively peaceful resting place in the discussion.

    @Atsiko —

    @Contrarius: He might be making the argument a bit too strongly. But even in friendly or benevolent contexts, the word is still a marker of distance between the two in many cases.

    And for about the bazillionth time — I’m not defending Benford’s usage of the term. I’ve agreed all along that usage in that specific context was condescending, and I’ve pointed out from the beginning that context is important in deciphering the word’s connotations.

    @Greg —

    That said, I’ve never read anything by Jemisin that pretended to be SF at all. She writes great fantasies, but, as far as I know, doesn’t do SF.

    What Greg said. Jemisin *can* be seen as an edge case, because she has logical-ish explanations and tech-ish applications and so on — but, I mean, she even uses the word “magic”. She certainly makes no pretensions of writing “hard” anything.

    But I have no trouble believing that Benford was indeed addressing her.

  6. @Greg H: It’s always nice to meet a fellow linguist!

    It’s certainly possible for me to say: “Learn some science, honey!” and then say afterword it was gender-neutral, and therefore people do use it that way. But I have to disagree on it being clear that “honey” is un-marked, because we’ve just had a massive discussion in this comment thread on how it’s *not* unmarked, even in the Southiest of the South. Especially coming as this did from a man.

    Would I hold a woman to the same standard as far as sexism for a similar comment as I would Mr. Benford? No. Because as we’ve established exhaustively, it’s relatively common for a a woman to speak that way to a woman or a man without a gendered context.

    However, I would definitely say your example would be marked as “rude” without any further context. It’s gate-keepy and condescending no matter who was saying it or who it was said to.

  7. @Contrarius I think we’re all speaking past each other here, so I’m gonna let it drop. I know you clarified about defending Benford, and I’m sorry if my comment suggested I was accusing you of doing so; it was not intended to, but in the context of a third person being involved in the discussion, I concede it could have been interpreted that way, and I should have been more explicit.

    Cheers

  8. @Greg: I would say that Hard SF takes the science seriously, not that it gets the science right.
    I agree with that, in the sense that ‘hard SF’ is largely an attitudinal stance.
    The what-if of the story can bend the facts a little–Asimov said as much–but beyond that, it needs characters who act like real scientists and engineers.
    Everything we understand about physics says that FTL, for example, is impossible; that’s far beyond ‘bending the facts a little’, and yet stories with FTL are generally considered hard SF rather than fantasy. And the number of stories I’ve read in which anyone behaves like a real scientist (or, in general, any type of academic) is miniscule.

  9. My full name is actually Gösta Hampus Eckerman, even though the “Gösta” part has never been used. It was driving me crazy in Australia, when the hospital decided that they needed my full name in their documentation which meant that every nurse started to call me “Gosta”. And there was no use trying to correct them.

    It annoyed me so much that I have decided to remove that part of my name before I travel outside Sweden again.

  10. “No non-native speaker should ever attempt to use this! You could get kissed on the cheek or socked in the mouth, and it’s hard to say precisely where the line is. (But I’ll bet you already figured that out.”

    Greg, I would never ever use rhe term honey wirh regards to someone it wasn’t my parrner or I was being insulting on purpose.

    That fight was over on the 80:s in Sweden and it is considered extremely rude, sexist and condescending to use it in Sweden. It would have the whole audience pissed off regardless of gender. It is a thing you simply do not do.

  11. Mke Glyer: Re: Benford choosing his words carefully. To quote Larry Niven, “Everyone speaks first draft”. Sometimes you choose words carefully when speaking (or writing when editing is done or it’s considered important to get things just right), sometimes you’re just talking. I don’t know him well enough to say if he regularly uses “honey” these days, but there are words and terms I still use that go back to my initial 20 years in the south.

  12. I note that “Porcayo” with 3/7 vowels has “too many”, while presumably “Benford”, at 2/7, is just right.

    Baltimore’s got the “Hon” usage but I think that’s clearly different than the ‘honey’ in question. (And maybe Benford should have spent some more time watching John Waters movies, unless a 2/6 vowel ratio is somehow too low).

  13. @JeffSmith

    Just a side note: A couple people here made gratuitous disparaging remarks about Human Resources, as if that’s something we can all agree on is reprehensible. As my wife spent a long career (rising to Chief) in HR, trying her best to be fair to both employee and employer, I was disturbed by those comments. It’s hard to be sensitive towards everything, and easy to casually dismiss with generalizations areas outside our specific concerns.

    I’m speaking based on direct personal experience with HR and disability accommodations, and my friends’, as well as many newspaper accounts, experiences with complaining of sexual and racial harassment. I respect that there are many decent people working for HR who are doing their best to reconcile the employers’ and employees’ conflicting desires. I also know that there are many — see, for instance, Susan Fowler’s experiences at Uber — who don’t. I always make a point to remind younger friends — people my age already know it — that HR represents the employer’s best interests, not yours. Decent HR people try to balance those interests; others don’t.

    It’s like being union (I’m not, never have been) — you may have an excellent relationship with your boss, but you still don’t forget that the union’s on your side and the boss is on the company’s.

  14. Which large literary SF cons don’t have some sort of controversy in recent years?

    It seems like some attendees are always looking for a fight, or something to be upset about. Some Cons seem to attract controversy every year.

    If you want to be upset, you will find a reason to be upset.

  15. @Atsiko

    Several people in other arenas and maybe some here have pointed out that you *don’t* in fact have to get the science right if you want to write SF,

    P J Evans

    I don’t think Jemisin ever claimed that her books are hard science fiction; they’re clearly part science fiction and part fantasy, and I don’t object, because they’re also good books.

    Not only has she never said they are hard science fiction, she has consistently said she writes fantasy. I paid attention to several discussions on her Facebook because while I see her earlier novels as easily well inside the margins of the genre, the Broken Earth trilogy resonates more “sciency” in the sense that the orogenes’ powers are explained as being tied to part of their brain which differs from others. Plus, geology! I may have links saved in notes somewhere since I plan to write an essay on the series as soon as I clear out some other projects.

    So to complain her ‘science’ isn’t accurate (which, given that he hasn’t read any of the books, how the fuck would he know) is about as valid a criticism as (IMNSHO) Charlie Stross complaining about Priest’s zombies not being, erm, scientifically accurate……white men complaining about how those girlz just don’t understand science when the authors involved are NOT writing “hard science fiction” (and I cannot say how much I loathe the way that concept is accepted since I remember a lot of sneering at the “soft girly fiction” back in the 1970s, 80s) says more about the man making the complaint than the quality of the woman’s work. Plus, Benford as one of the “three B’s” (who have degrees in physics or some other nuggety hard science) is hardly representative of the majority of published science fiction (others are Brin and…I’m not remembering…Bova?).

  16. @Robin

    It just confuses me that these people don’t realize we gotta throw out 95% of “science fiction” by some of these definition. Anything with FTL is out. Anything with AI is out. Aliens is totally gone. Universal translators are totally out. Bye-bye time travel and psychic powers Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury, Bear, Vinge, pretty much everybody is losing most of their catalogs.

  17. @Madame Hardy:

    Of course I respect your specific experiences. However,

    Certainly nobody who’s ever had to deal with HR

    is a generalization.

  18. @Hampus

    It annoyed me so much that I have decided to remove that part of my name before I travel outside Sweden again.

    A common solution, in the US at least, is to legally change the order of the given names. (Actually, you don’t even have to do that, but it’s the permanent fix. My mother stopped using her first name to the point where I don’t think anyone outside immediate family even knew what it was. And they weren’t using it, either)

  19. @Hampus
    As a non-american, I’m always happy to have these things explained to me. I have had a few misunderstandings here when US:aians use words differently than I was taught.

    If American usage is of interest to you, then bear in mind that “American” as you used it is a proper noun, and should be capitalized; and that the majority of English-speaking people who live in the US refer to themselves as “Americans” and not “US:aians”; and that they would find the latter term to be awkward, if not strange.

  20. @Robin

    So to complain her ‘science’ isn’t accurate (which, given that he hasn’t read any of the books, how the fuck would he know) is about as valid a criticism as (IMNSHO) Charlie Stross complaining about Priest’s zombies not being, erm, scientifically accurate……white men complaining about how those girlz just don’t understand science when the authors involved are NOT writing “hard science fiction” (and I cannot say how much I loathe the way that concept is accepted since I remember a lot of sneering at the “soft girly fiction” back in the 1970s, 80s) says more about the man making the complaint than the quality of the woman’s work. Plus, Benford as one of the “three B’s” (who have degrees in physics or some other nuggety hard science) is hardly representative of the majority of published science fiction (others are Brin and…I’m not remembering…Bova?).

    I think Greg Bear is the third B. At any rate, I always get those three mixed up.

    I also remember Charles Stross’ remark that Cherie Priest’s zombies were not scientifically accurate and other remarks along those lines he’s made over the years such as the complaint that Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota quartet doesn’t work for him, because the flying cars are not scientifically plausible.

    Of course, everybody has works they just can’t stomach, because something, usually something small, completely destroys their suspension of disbelief. For example, I can’t stand the movie Titanic, because I know a bit about ships and the film gets so much wrong. But I also accept that plenty of other people aren’t bothered by what bothered me and enjoyed a tragic doomed love story.

    However, certain folks – often, but not always straight white men – assume that whatever destroys their suspension of disbelief makes a work automatically bad. They also can’t seem to understand that other people care about very different aspects of a given work.

    Getting back to the Titanic example, whenever I voice my opinion about the movie, women tend to say, “I still love the movie, but I understand why it doesn’t work for you.” Men, provided they like Titanic, will try to mansplain to me why I’m wrong and can’t possibly know what I’m talking about and why Titanic is a timeless masterpiece for the ages.

  21. @JeffSmith: That’s entirely fair. I am overgeneralizing.

    Re regional uses: I’m an (adoptive) Northern Californian. We think “dude” is a universal non-gendered address. People outside NoCal think it’s gendered. I apologize when people call me out.

  22. If American usage is of interest to you, then bear in mind that “American” is a proper noun, and should be capitalized; and that the majority of English-speaking people who live in the US refer to themselves as “Americans” and not “US:aians” and that they would find the latter term to be awkward, if not weird.

    Citizens of the country until relatively recently formally called the Dominion of Canada, the country still formally called Estados Unidos Mexicanos (in English, United Mexican States), the country formally known as República Federativa do Brasil (the Federative Republic of Brazil), República Bolivariana de Venezuela (the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela), Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia (Plurinational State of Bolivia) since 2009 and República de Bolivia (Republic of Bolivia) prior to that, as well as multiple other examples, sometimes claim it is arrogant or ignorant of citizens of the United States of America to refer to ourselves as Americans rather than United Statesians or USonians or USians, or some other ugly neologism bearing no resemblance to how the citizens of any other country–in the world, as far as I’m aware–derive their national demonym from their country’s name.

    Ain’t gonna happen. Not because arrogance. Because that’s just not how people name themselves.

    Although, in fairness, often we don’t speak up and correct people about it, because what’s the point.

  23. “…given that he hasn’t read any of the books…” But I have. Not all the way through, since they were not that interesting or well done, I thought. So did the jury of the JWC Novel award, 3 years in a row.
    I meant that if you use science in fiction, get it right. Writing mystery, get the rules of evidence right, too. Much etc.

  24. Regarding the use of hon in Southern dialects, in the parts of central Texas where I grew up, I don’t remember encountering hon very often. It wasn’t used in my family or social circles, and I think I would have found it odd if I had encountered it. Linguistically, Texas further west than the Piney Woods is not prototypically Southern, though it does have many typically Southern features–y’all is common (I often use it myself when speaking informally, especially if I’m speaking with Southerners or when it’s likely to get up the nose of non-y’all speakers who have made fun of its use), for example.

    In any case, the use of “hon” in that context immediately struck me as at least a little dismissive, though I wouldn’t read it as definitely referring to a particular person.

  25. Is it insulting to use USAians? Because it is more specific and it seems like people understand what it means. I’ve seen it in use here before, so thought it was ok.

  26. Gregory Benford:

    “I meant that if you use science in fiction, get it right.”

    But they are fantasy books, so what “science” in them is it you think should be right!?

  27. @Hampus–I wouldn’t say it’s insulting. It’s just weird, and its origins are grounded in assumptions that get sillier the more you examine them–that Americans doing exactly what every other nationality does is incorrect because, well, Americans.

    It is specific, and online at least, people do understand it. And what you got from Bill and me here is probably about the crankiest anyone will ever get at you about it, and it won’t happen often. But if you were traveling through the USA, and not in fannish or otherwise relatively internationally connected social circles, you would likely find that people don’t find it at all clear, and do need it explained to them. That’s because it is a foreign, not an American, usage. It just isn’t what we call ourselves.

  28. Is it insulting to use USAians?

    It’s a little precious, at least.

    Lis noted that some Mexicans and Canadians find it arrogant of Americans to arrogate to themselves the name that applies to two continents, but I’d hazard a guess that while that’s true, even more Canadians and Mexicans would object to being referred to as Americans themselves, on the grounds that they have perfectly good national demonyms that do not lump them in with them damn Yankees.

    Heck, “Norteamericano” means U.S. citizen/resident, even when spoken by our neighbors to the south, still part of North America.

    In the end, language is about usage, not strictly about logic. “Americans” is derived from the name “United States of America,” and not a reference to the continents, even though the word “America” is also part of “North America” and “South America.”

    In the end, it’s wisest not to call a Canadian or a Mexican or a Brazilian or a Panamanian an American, and people will know what you mean just fine when you say “American.”

    “USaian” isn’t insulting, but it’s weird.

  29. @Lis Carey

    I’m not sure whether you’re suggesting it’s rude or pointing out that nigh on every other country is also referred to by things not-their-name to varying degrees and therefore it would be a bit much to consider it rude. Some of your comment sounds one way, some of it sounds t’other.

    ETA: And you also edited. Sigh. Thank you for the clarification, though!

    @Hampus

    I was also confused, but I eventually figured it out: John W Campbell Memorial Award (not to be confused with the Campbell Award for new writers). Benford’s on the jury.

    Oops. Looks like you edited. Still, I’ll leave it up in case anyone else looks at that and goes “..?”

  30. “Not all the way through, since they were not that interesting or well done, I thought. So did the jury of the JWC Novel award, 3 years in a row.”

    If you mean the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer, then it goes to best new writer,. Your first professional work has to have been published during the last two years. It is impossible to be nominated three years in a row. Also, she was not eligible for that award for any of her Hugo winning books as her first professional work was published in 2004.

    If you mean the John W Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, it is for Science Fiction. Jemisins books are fantasy.

    If you mean some totally different award, do tell us which you mean.

  31. @Madame Hardy: I was wondering about “dude.” I thought I had heard it in non-gendered usage, but as it still sounds odd to me, I wasn’t sure. I have definitely heard “guy” non-gendered, and have probably used it myself — in the sense of asking a group of women, “What do you guys want to do?” Certainly I’ve heard one woman in a group say that to the rest of the group.

  32. N. K. Jemisin on twitter:

    Posted in lieu of a scream, bc I don’t have TIME for all this shit: the science in the Broken Earth trilogy isn’t the psi — for which I used the groundbreaking term “magic” — but the seismology. Also the social sciences, but I know that’s a lost cause w/some. So. FYI for all.

    (Not that the idea of someone being excluded from the John W Campbell Memorial Award for bad science on the basis of psionics isn’t hilarious — we are talking about the same Campbell, yeah? the guy who outright encouraged science fiction with psionics in? — but that’s where Jemisin stands on the science in her science fantasy novels. I’m sure someone, somewhere, has found a nit to pick in her seismology, but I haven’t seen it yet.)

  33. I was also confused, but I eventually figured it out: John W Campbell Memorial Award (not to be confused with the Campbell Award for new writers). Benford’s on the jury.

    Oops. Looks like you edited. Still, I’ll leave it up in case anyone else looks at that and goes “..?”

    Thanks, I was wondering.

    If I was on that jury, I wouldn’t appreciate having my opinions outed (or perhaps just assumed) by another jury member who wanted to invoke backup for his own hole-digging. It’s unclear whether Benford means that the JWC jury didn’t actually shortlist any of the books (which must include fantasy as well, since “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe” was a finalist), or that they each individually assured him that they didn’t find any of the trilogy interesting or well done.

    Heck, I am on an awards jury (the Bill Finger Award), and I wouldn’t volunteer that my fellow jurors thought some particular potential honoree was undeserving. But I guess it’s an individual choice one makes while digging onward…

  34. Hampus Eckerman: If you mean the John W Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, it is for Science Fiction.

    For extremely loose definitions of “science fiction”. For this year’s finalists, The Rift contains no science fiction or fantasy (apart from what may be either deliberate lies or unconscious delusions), and The People’s Police is fantasy. Last year, Underground Airlines had only the barest whiff of science fiction, The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe and Occupy Me were pure fantasy, and Everfair was science fiction only in the sense that it was alternate history. In 2014, the winner was The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August — which I loved, but it was fantasy; the finalists Hild and Shaman were neither science fiction nor fantasy; they were historical fiction. And I don’t know what you call The Adjacent, but it wasn’t science fiction.

    The Campbell Award is certainly not a bastion of science fiction — but it is a bastion of speculative fiction, which I think, frankly, is much better.

    The Broken Earth Trilogy would certainly stand well on its own among Campbell finalists.

  35. @Jeff Smith

    I was wondering about “dude.”

    “Look, let me explain something: I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. That, or Duder. His Dudeness. Or El Duderino, if, you know, you’re not into the whole brevity thing.”

    (Speaking of matters Lebowski, I tip my figurative hat to note today’s passing of 41, a man who looks better all the time.)

    @Madame Hardy:

    Re regional uses: I’m an (adoptive) Northern Californian. We think “dude” is a universal non-gendered address.

    Dude! Rest assured, you’re hella NorCal.

  36. @Tom Galloway:

    Re: Benford choosing his words carefully. To quote Larry Niven, “Everyone speaks first draft”. Sometimes you choose words carefully when speaking (or writing when editing is done or it’s considered important to get things just right), sometimes you’re just talking.

    That’s a nice metaphor. Allow me to draw it a little further: first drafts are meant to elicit comment, and to correct errors on receiving comments that point them out.

    As Gregory shows, every time a minor incident turns into a kerfluffle, it’s because someone is completely unable to accept correction and doubles down. Every. Fricking. Time.

  37. Chileans at the very lest, and possibly others in Latin America, refer to the inhabitanats of their continent, including themselves, when they say “Americanos”.
    In Italy we call the citizens of the Unted States “statunitensi”.

    Still waiting to hear what Benford thinks it’s the mistake Jemisin made with her geology.

  38. @Greggory Benford:

    “…given that he hasn’t read any of the books…” But I have. Not all the way through, since they were not that interesting or well done, I thought. So did the jury of the JWC Novel award, 3 years in a row.

    Oops! I misspoke. That’s right. It was Robert Silverberg who said he hadn’t read any of Jemisin’s award-winning fiction before slamming her acceptance speech for her third Hugo. In a row. For novels.

    Ah, well, it’s hard to keep you prejudiced white men dissing women’s sff apart because you all sound so alike, and have been sounding so alike since the 1970s (in my personal memory–historically, since the 1920s as documented by Justine Larbalestier and Helen Merrick in their intellectual histories of sff).

    The WHOLE jury of an award named after Campbell agreed with you, you say (just like the lurkers in email), about Jemisin’s work. Three years in a row. Wow. So, how many white women or people of color were on that jury?

    Oooh, you sure schooled me! Not.

    Campbell…Campbell….hmmm, where have I heard that name before. Oh yeah, he was the founding father, the seminal figure, in sf who decreed from on high what SF had to be and who turned down a story by Delany on the grounds that……sf readers wouldn’t be able to “relate” to a black character.

    For all we’re living in the 21st century, seems like some part of sff haven’t evolved much.

    “Racism and Science Fiction” by Samuel R. Delany

    On February 10, a month and a half before the March awards, in its partially completed state Nova had been purchased by Doubleday & Co. Three months after the awards banquet, in June, when it was done, with that first Nebula under my belt, I submitted Nova for serialization to the famous sf editor of Analog Magazine, John W. Campbell, Jr. Campbell rejected it, with a note and phone call to my agent explaining that he didn’t feel his readership would be able to relate to a black main character. That was one of my first direct encounters, as a professional writer, with the slippery and always commercialized form of liberal American prejudice: Campbell had nothing against my being black, you understand. (There reputedly exists a letter from him to horror writer Dean Koontz, from only a year or two later, in which Campbell argues in all seriousness that a technologically advanced black civilization is a social and a biological impossibility. . . .). No, perish the thought! Surely there was not a prejudiced bone in his body! It’s just that I had, by pure happenstance, chosen to write about someone whose mother was from Senegal (and whose father was from Norway), and it was the poor benighted readers, out there in America’s heartland, who, in 1967, would be too upset. . . .

    [emphasis added]

  39. I’m a NorCal native, which means “dude” is an all purpose, non-gendered form of address.

    Gregory Benford – But I have. Not all the way through, since they were not that interesting or well done, I thought. So did the jury of the JWC Novel award, 3 years in a row..

    Dude, I’ve served on an awards jury and not only is it beyond the pale for you to have disclosed the thoughts of your fellow jurors, it’s also unbelievable that there would be that much agreement among what I hope is a slightly more diverse panel than your comments indicate.

    You might consider apologizing to your fellow jurors and definitely consider ceasing your continued violation of the First Law of Holes.

  40. @Gregory Benford: I’m not unsympathetic to you in this issue overall, but the point about disclosing that portion of the juried deliberations is very well taken.

    One of my two Great Teachers was on the committee that gave The Color Purple the NBA (I think. I don’t think it was the Pulitizer). He told us what he found so distinctive and meritorious about the book, especially its formal qualities (it came up during a workshop). He may have indicated the committee agreed with him.

    And that’s okay. Praise is what’s supposed to come from an awards committee.

    Criticism is implicit in who doesn’t get an award. Leave it at that.

    And if it were me, I’d apologize to the other committee members. Personally and without disclosing it. You aren’t me and might make a different judgement.

  41. God grief. You can read the JWC judges list and every year’s short list of novels online. Do so. None of that is secret.
    You don’t have to stay ignorant.

  42. We knew the books didn’t make the short list. We didn’t know the jury thought all three books of her trilogy were “not that interesting or well done.”

  43. @rcade–

    We knew the books didn’t make the short list. We didn’t know the jury thought all three books of her trilogy were “not that interesting or well done.”

    I would submit that all we know on that point is that Benford says the whole jury thought that. They didn’t make the short list, so the jury didn’t think they were top candidates for “best” those years. But there’s a fair distance between that, and “not that interesting or well done.” There are many books I like a lot that I don’t think are reasonable Hugo nominees, just for instance.

    And Mr. Benford has on several issues shown a failure to understand viewpoints he doesn’t share. There might be some projection going on.

  44. I would submit that all we know on that point is that Benford says the whole jury thought that.

    True, but by saying the jury shared his low opinion of her books he’s put that perception out there. I think the objections raised would be the same whether he’s accurately or inaccurately described their assessment.

  45. robinareid: Campbell missed an opportunity, for a doubtful reason. Made all the more doubtful because he had published TWO multi-installment stories by Mack Reynolds in a series with a black protagonist — Black Man’s Burden (1961-2) and Border, Breed nor Birth (1962). Reynolds’ depiction was intended to be favorable, though if you read it you would find the series itself was set in North AFrica and the characters worked undercover “subverting the culture of its nomad tribes by disseminating ‘progressive’ Western propaganda such as the right to equality, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness with the long-term objective of leading North Africa into the modern age.”

  46. rcade: Since the chair of the Campbell Award jury, Christopher McKitterick, has recently commented on the Silverberg post, he may see this discussion.

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